Stuart White has kept the Next Left community well informed about the police tactic of ‘kettling’ used so indiscriminately at the G20 protests on Wednesday.
The death of Ian Tomlinson at the protest on Wednesday is a terrible illustration of the worst dangers of the tactic. Tomlinson was not part of the protest, but seemingly got caught in the ‘kettle’ nonetheless on his way home from work.
The death- worryingly- seems to be surrounded by a large amount of dubious police spin. Brief mention of the death on the Wednesday BBC News at 10 followed the line put out by the police, that he “suffered a sudden heart attack while on his way home from work.” (City of
Moreover, the short news report noted police frustration that police medics had been attacked on trying to enter the crowd to help the man, and been forced to retreat. This certainly insinuated that if liability for the death lay anywhere, it was not with the police but with the protestors themselves.
Little is known about the death, so far, but eye witness reports coming out suggest that the police line is at least seriously open to question. Indeed, witnesses quoted all deny that the police were met with violence. It is suggested that one bottle was thrown, but that it landed nowhere near the police.
Witnesses also argue that police did not cooperate with the emergency services over the phone or attempt to perform CPR.
If this is the case, the fact that police have again spun dishonestly in order to cover up a death is a great worry, and suggests that little has been learnt after the fallout from the dishonest police spinning that followed the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes.
However, reports in the Observer today suggest worse still. Witnesses claim that Tomlinson was charged at and perhaps even hit on the head with a baton by police. Another witness says she saw him pushed to the floor such that he hit his head on the pavement. The witness goes on to explain that “I noticed his fall particularly because it struck me as a horrifically forceful push by a policeman and an especially hard fall; it made me wince."
Of course these reports must be verified. The IPCC has reopened its investigation, which it had been due to conclude on Wednesday, with the death seen simply as a tragic accident. There are many questions which must be addressed, including the nature of the death itself, and specifically whether the allegations of police assault are true; the use of ‘kettling’ generally, whether this can be said to have indirectly led to the death and the intelligence which supported the need for the tactic; and whether the police have spun dishonestly following the death.